Beware the Ides of March
This is an urgent bulletin for all homeless, mentally and physically disabled people in Orange County: upcoming changes to CalFresh and Medi-Cal benefits may result in limitations or loss of service for both programs. Details below:
According to CalFresh, the state of California requested and received USDA approval for paying the SNAP Emergency Allotments for January and February 2023, with final supplemental payments in March. Translated into English, this means that the “bump-up” in food stamps that the Fed approved during the COVID pandemic will expire in March, which means significantly less money in your EBT account starting in April.
Here’s the math: The average household on CalFresh will lose about $200 a month, according to Becky Silva, government relations director at the California Association of Food Banks. A single-person household, for instance, could drop from $281 a month in food aid to as low as $23 in April.
This will particularly impact seniors and the disabled in the OC, many of whom have already seen their food aid eligibility reduced after the unprecedented benefits bump in Social Security checks in January. In addition to wages, Social Security, unemployment benefits, and disability payments all count as income for the person receiving food aid.
Bottom Line: If you fall into one of the above categories, it’s important to contact your CalFresh worker and find out 1) how the ending of the emergency allotment from the Fed will affect your EBT account and 2) how to deal with any resulting shortfall in benefits.
Medi-Cal: In April, Medi-Cal will be conducting what it calls “eligibility re-determinations.”
Translation: They’ll be looking at cases and seeing who still qualifies and who doesn’t. This would be the time to contact Medi-Cal and make sure that you get re-enrolled and don’t lose your medical benefits. This would also be a good time to update your contact information and notify Medi-Cal if there are changes in your household or income level. Medi-Cal main customer service number: (714) 246-8500.
The poet T.S. Eliot said that “April is the cruelest month.” This time, he was right, albeit for different reasons than he gave in his most famous poem, “The Waste Land.” These changes, especially to CalFresh, will hurt people. They will put additional strain on food banks and shelters, many of whom are already struggling to care for those currently in their charge. The government giveth, and the government taketh away. And, as usual, those most in need–the homeless, single people without partners or families, the unemployed–will be hurt the most. It is unfair. It is also common practice.
I have no magic bullets. I know of no boundless cornucopias that dispense fruits and vegetables without end. I can tell you, if you’re in Fullerton and need food, that First Christian (at the corner of Harbor and Wilshire) gives out a hot dinner every Wednesday, that Pathways of Hope (St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1231 Chapman Ave.) is open from 8:30-5:30 Monday through Friday to help the homeless with food, clothing and shelter, that CalOptima is offering its members one free bag of groceries every week (See Medi-Cal number above) and Pathways of Hope is offering food through its community food pantry Hub of Hope, located at 611 S. Ford Ave. and open Monday-Friday from 1-4pm. These are Band-Aids over open wounds. They require effort and planning to find, to get to and get back from. But they are better than nothing.
As usual, better days are coming…if we work for them.
********************* Addenda: In my mention of the Home Safe program, I forgot to conclude the following contact info. The contact person for Home Safe in Orange County is Laura Turtzer of the OC Social Service Agency. Email: Laura.Turtzer@ssa.ocgov.com Phone: (714) 541-7734**********************